“The game is to be sold, not to be told.”
Tupac, “Peep Game“
2013 was a huge year for gaming. Supercell exploded from a $770 million to a $3 billion valuation in the course of six months. GungHo temporarily pulled ahead of Nintendo’s market cap ($15B) on the back of Puzzle and Dragons’ massive success. GTA 5 hit $800 million in first-day sales and over one billion in its first three days, making it the fastest-selling billion-dollar entertainment product in history. I believe these collective successes represent a bellwether for the gaming industry, and I look forward to seeing the next level of innovation and success in 2014. Below are some of the trends that I am most excited about in the new year.
MOBA on Tablets
The wild successes of “League of Legends” (LoL) and “Dota 2” demonstrated that MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) is one of the most engaging categories in hardcore free-to-play gaming. “League of Legends” has 12 million daily active players and 32 million monthly active players on a registered player base of 70 million. “Dota 2” recently surpassed 6.5 million monthly active players.
Clearly, there is a huge audience for these games, despite average game lengths of 30-60 minutes. This signals a significant opportunity to bring MOBA into the mobile experience. I’m excited for the upcoming releases at companies like Hammer and Chisel* and Super Evil Megacorp. A key question that remains to be answered will be how hardcore tablet gaming experiences fit into the core gamer’s gaming time between consoles and desktops.
eSports has been on a massive growth run for the past few years, and I expect this to continue into 2014. MLG’s video consumption has grown 1,700% from 3 million hours in 2010 to 54 million hours in 2013. Twitch increased its viewership from 23 million monthly unique viewers to 45 million in September. The finals of the LoL championships were hosted in the Staples Center and sold out in 59 minutes (with viewership increasing year on year from 8 million unique to 32 million viewers).
I am excited for opportunities for value generation around this large, growing, and highly engaged audience, as well as the potential for new games to capitalize on this trend by producing games designed and balanced for competition and spectator sport. The lack of revenue numbers makes it difficult to ascertain the size and nature of the opportunity for infrastructure providers. Nonetheless, the phenomenon of watching professional gamers play is poised for further growth.
Storytelling in Games
“The Walking Dead*,” “Braid,” “Journey,” and “Gone Home” — all are successful indie games with an emphasis on storytelling. There is obvious demand for games that deliver rich and expressive interactive experiences.
I am particularly excited about the combination of episodic storytelling and licensed intellectual property in gaming, as these types of games are able to capitalize on an existing, deeply engaged audience for distribution. I’m proud that our portfolio company, Telltale Games, has won numerous Game of the Year awards and has sold millions of episodes.
2013 was a year in which mobile trivia emerged into a category of its own right. SongPop* hit over 80 million users and QuizUp* hit one million users within its first week and ten million users within two months after its release.
The success of these games show that trivia is the next big casual gaming category. With its asynchronous and social gameplay, trivia represents a form that integrates well with a world already dominated by social media and increasingly dominated by OTT messengers. The potential for community-building around passion topics is immense, and I look forward to seeing continued innovation around these shared experiences.